About me: I was born and raised in south-central Wisconsin. I graduated summa cum laude from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a double major in biology and chemistry. As an undergraduate, I spent a semester at the University of Ghana on an exchange program and a summer in the Galapagos as a volunteer at the Charles Darwin Research Station. In the fall of 2012 I began working on my Ph.D. in the Baldwin Lab. I currently have a number of research interests within the broad scope of vascular plant systematics and diversity.
Current Research Activities:
I am interested in the taxonomy and systematics of Orobanche section Myzorrhiza (=Nothaphylon). Orobanche, or broomrapes, are a worldwide genus of holoparasitic plants. Section Myzorrhiza is an American group of Orobanche found mostly in the Great Plains and West, with high diversity and many undescribed taxa in California. Current questions include the status and history of morphological intermediates, species delimitation, and host-parasite relationships. My research takes a multi-pronged approach, including field, greenhouse, and molecular phylogenetics studies.
Additionally, I am collaborating with other graduate students in the Baldwin Lab on writing a flora of Pulgas Ridge, a small remnant grassland on the San Francisco Peninsula and on a phylogenetic study of Hesperolinon, a genus of dwarf flax that has an affinity for serpentine soils.
Previous Research Activities:
1. Plant Responses to Varying Water Availability:
As an undergraduate, I worked with Tali Lee, a plant physiologist to study the comparative and interactive effects of two types of drought—reduced rainfall frequency and reduced rainfall volume—on Agropyron repens, a C4 grass, and Lupinus perennis, a legume. Many studies have looked at the effects of drought on plants, but few have independently compared rainfall volume and frequency. This study was the first to do so in a controlled environment that allowed access to below-ground plant parts. We found that for a wide range of growth parameters, a 50% reduction in watering frequency did not significantly affect either species as long as there was no overall reduction in total water volume. Species showed differing response to reduced overall volume: Lupinus showed a reduction in growth and nitrogen fixation rates, while Agropyron adjusted its leaf physiology to compensate. Reductions in both water volume and watering frequency showed synergistic effects. Overall, this work clearly illustrates the non-parallel responses of plant species to abiotic variables. It suggests that predictions of vegetation responses to climate change could be improved by considering these two dimensions of water availability independently.
2. Herbarium Research Assistant: Charles Darwin Research Station, Galápagos Islands
In the summer of 2008, I worked full-time as an international volunteer intern at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) in the Galapagos Islands. My work in the CDRS herbarium was concentrated in three main areas including both independent and dissemination. First, I assisted with the accessioning, curation, and identification of specimens that had been collected as part of an inventory of Floreana, one of the oldest islands in the archipelago. Second, I participated in field research. I documented the flora and collected 168 voucher specimens on a multi-day transect of Santa Cruz Island as part of a collaborative project to understand interactive effects of island age, elevation, and rainfall gradients on soil and plant communities. A staff soil scientist determined each sampling site and collected soil, while I documented or collected all plant species in the area. Third, I worked to improve Datazone a comprehensive census of species lists, taxon names, natural history collection records, published papers, raw data, and other scholarly information online. I was responsible for adding published references, such as papers and checklists, dating back to the 1800s to each taxon record so that people can see a full list of records and publications for a given species.
Recreational Interests: One of the best things about field botany is that it is an "excuse" to travel to wonderful natural areas. I enjoy virtually anything that will get me outside: biking, hiking, backpacking, cross country skiing, paddle sports, conservation work projects, and gardening. I also enjoy cooking and do-it-yourself projects, and since moving out to California I have taken up home brewing.
I also enjoy contemplating the interplay between science and religion historically, and in our modern society, considering my identity as both an evolutionary biologist and a confessing Lutheran (ELCA).
In the summer of 2012 I worked for Wilderness Canoe Base a backcountry canoe guide in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota teaching wilderness canoeing, camping, and leadership skills to mostly middle and high schoolers. I am always looking forward to my next trip into the Northwoods, but in the meantime I live there vicariously through the writings of Sigurd Olsen.